State-Sponsored Homophobia: 69 nations criminalise LGBTQI+ lives

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World) has updated their State-Sponsored Homophobia report, highlighting 69 UN member states who continue to criminalise same-sex activity.

The annual report has analysed and delivered a worldwide survey of sexual orientation laws since 2006, with this year’s update researched and written by Lucas Ramón Mendos, together with Kellyn Botha, Rafael Carrano Lelis, Enrique López de la Peña, Ilia Savelev and Daron Tan.

The report is accompanied by a world map visual aide, that details the state of sexuality based laws on a global scale.

“As of December 2020, 69 States continue to criminalise same-sex consensual activity,” noted Lucas Ramón Mendos, Research Coordinator at ILGA World and lead author of the report.

“The figure dropped by one this year, as Gabon backtracked from the criminalising provision it passed in 2019 – which became the shortest-lived law of its kind in modern history. Moreover, last week Bhutan’s parliament approved a bill to decriminalise consensual same-sex relations, and may soon be signed into law.”

ILGA World has been able to verify that at least 34 UN member States have actively enforced such criminalising laws over the past five years, but the number is possibly much higher.

“Wherever such provisions are in the books,” Mendos explains, “people may get reported and arrested at any time even just under the suspicion of having sex with someone of the same gender. Courts actively prosecute and sentence them to jail, public flogging, or even death.”

Notably in 2020, the whole world had to battle with the unique consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Many were left struggling to survive in a world that has become even more unequal and violent”, Julia Ehrt, Director of Programmes at ILGA World, pointed out.

“For our communities, safe spaces dramatically shrunk overnight. Some governments took advantage of these circumstances and stepped up their efforts to oppress, persecute, scapegoat, and to violently discriminate against us. In many places where laws were already a cause of inequality, things have only got worse.”

The proliferation of so-called “LGBT-free zones” in Poland, Indonesia seeking to give new boost to ‘conversion therapies’ and a reversal of two state-level bans on them in Florida, USA, and laws that could severely restrict the operation of NGOs working with our communities are only a few of the legal provisions that are being advanced across the world.

“Amidst such concerning situations, explicit legal protections against violence and discrimination have become – more than ever—paramount to safeguard our human rights and dignity, to prevent harm, and to heal from the violations we suffer,” Ehrt said.

Key changes that occured in 2020 include Sudan’s repeal of the death penalty for same-sex relations, and Germany joined as the fourth UN member state to criminalise ‘conversion therapy’ on a national level, alongside jurisdictions in Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United States.

As a new feature, the State-Sponsored Homophobia report is now also tracking developments in non-independent territories around the world.

“Thousands of valued members of our communities live in these jurisdictions, but their activism is not always visible at the international level”, Mendos explained.

“It is vital that we shine a light on their legal progress or rollbacks as well: as a global family, we are committed to our members regardless of the official status of their territory.”

Despite anti-rights forces are seemingly gaining ground around the world, this new update to the State-Sponsored Homophobia shows how our global community has collectively achieved progress in every single legal category tracked here.

“This publication is a vital source of information for human rights defenders, States, researchers, media and the general public on how laws affect people on the grounds of their sexual orientation,” Ehrt concluded.

“But each section of this report also contains hope for a better tomorrow – a future in which our communities will no longer have to fight to reclaim rights that should have never been taken away from us in the first place.”

OIP Staff

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